UOG graduate student studies algae at the University of Washington  

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Grace Jackson, a University of Guam graduate biology student and Guam NSF EPSCoR graduate research assistant, gained research experience this summer through a course held at the Friday Harbor Laboratory at the University of Washington from June 11 to July 14, 2023.  

The class was called Marine Botany: Diversity and Ecology and covered classical and contemporary methods for identification, classification, and phylogenetic analysis of algae. Taught by Thomas Mumford, Ph.D., and D. Wilson Freshwater, Ph.D., the five-week course focused on the diversity of algae species found around San Juan Island.  

“I was interested in taking this class because I am studying crustose coralline algae for my thesis,” said Jackson, who is under the mentorship of UOG Professor of Marine Biology, Tom Schils. “I thought that learning about algae from a different ecosystem would give me a broader perspective and appreciation for the work I am doing in Guam.”  

Over the course of the program, Jackson explored the species-rich intertidal habitats around San Juan Island. She also worked on a research project that focused on identifying San Juan Island’s different species of crustose coralline algae, which are rock-hard calcareous red algae that can be found at intertidal rocky shores or coral reefs.  

“Forming my group and getting them excited about our topic and coaching them along the way taught me a lot about science communication,” said Jackson. “Writing the research report also fostered my writing skills. This whole experience has given me a greater appreciation for the work I have been doing in Guam. I can’t wait to get back in the lab and practice what I have learned.”

Two UOG students explore turning seawater into clean energy 

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Anna Mallari and Merry Remetira, two undergraduate civil engineering students from the University of Guam, are researching how to convert seawater into renewable energy as part of a collaboration between UOG and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to establish a diverse and equitable recruitment and retention program to build UOG and Guam’s future energy workforce.  
The program they are a part of is called BES-RENEW, or Basic Energy Sciences –  
Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce, which works to increase participation of underrepresented groups in clean energy research.  
As part of the program, Mallari and Remetira will receive training along with UOG Assistant Professor of Chemistry John Limtiaco at the PNNL campus in Richland, Washington from June 2nd to August 11th, 2023. The laboratory is a leading center of technological innovation in sustainable energy.  

“I’m excited because we will be learning new science that will be beneficial to the island once we come back. I hope that me and Anna will get the necessary tools that we can get there and apply it here when we want to further our careers,” said Remetira.  

Mallari is a 2023 Guam NSF EPSCoR undergraduate student researcher while Remetira is from the 2021 cohort.  

For those looking into applying for opportunities like BES-RENEW, Mallari said it’s important for students to try new experiences.  

“It’s good to diversify your background and be a well-rounded engineer,” said Mallari. “EPSCoR has taught me that since we are in college, we’re not supposed to know everything. We’re supposed to learn. I think that’s a very good lesson to take with me for the rest of my life.”  

UOG researcher explores the biodiversity of crabs in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf  

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UOG Curator of Crustacea Robert Lasley went on two research expeditions to conduct biodiversity surveys within the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.  

With support from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Lasley joined a team of biologists and spent two weeks at sea collecting specimens such as crabs, mollusks, and worms from May 3 to May 27, 2023.  
During this expedition, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) were deployed. ARMS are stacks of plates that mimic the sea floor. They are used to recruit local species over a set period of time to gauge and compare marine biodiversity among habitats, islands, and even ocean basins. Lasley and his colleagues will eventually deploy ARMS in Guam. 

During his time in Abu Dhabi from June 16 to June 29, Lasley explored the Persian Gulf with a team of scientists as part of a trip sponsored by Archireef, a Hong Kong-based company that builds 3D-printed reef structures to restore degraded coral reefs.  

The specimens gathered from these expeditions will be placed in the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository, a physical and cyber warehouse of records and images operated by the Guam NSF EPSCoR program. 

“I’m really interested in crab biodiversity and biogeography in general,” said Lasley. “The Indo-West Pacific – which includes Guam, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf – is this massive biogeographic region and some species are connected throughout it. Any specimens I collect anywhere are good to bring to our collection for comparative material because as we do research, we need to compare specimens from Guam but also specimens from elsewhere.”  

Between the two trips, Lasley collected more than 500 specimens, which include around 100 to 200 species of crabs.  

“We have already found a new record and, possibly, a new species from the Red Sea,” Lasley said. “We are bound to find more as I examine the specimens more thoroughly.”  

UOG grad student explores the small world of meiofauna

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Sarai Vega, a biology graduate student from the University of Guam was one of 13 participants selected worldwide to attend the 2023 Dauphin Island Sea Lab Meiofauna Diversity and Taxonomy Workshop in Alabama from May 10 to May 19, 2023.  

Meiofauna are invertebrates that live in both marine and freshwater environments that are small enough to pass through a 0.45 micrometer mesh. They live in between the grains of sand and mud on the seafloor and riverbeds. Copepods, flatworms, and nematodes fall under meiofauna.  

Because the meiofauna group is broad, the field remains understudied despite its ecological importance.  
“Meiofauna have a high turnover, so they reproduce very fast and they don’t live very long,” said Vega. “Because of this, they are a food source to bigger animals like crabs and sea cucumbers. In turn, those bigger animals are food for other animals. If this group didn’t exist, it would affect that chain.”  

Over the course of the workshop, Vega was able to connect with meiofauna experts from around the world as well as learn different collection and sampling techniques for DNA metabarcoding of meiofauna communities around Dauphin Island.  

As a Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, Vega became interested in researching meiofauna to incorporate it into her thesis project, which focuses on studying the formation of sediment plumes in the Pago Watershed in central Guam and how they affect the island’s environment.  

Sediment from soil erosion due to fires and invasive species such as wild pigs and deer can wash into rivers, streams, and bays during rainfall. Once in the water, these plumes of sediment can pollute bodies of water and smother coral reef systems.   

“These sediment plumes consist of very fine sediment,” said Vega. “I want to understand what’s happening and how they affect meiofauna.”  

Vega said that her experience attending the workshop has benefited her development as a scientist.  

“Being in the workshop was very hard in the beginning, but I got to learn a lot by asking other people how they’d process their samples so by the end of the workshop, I was faster,” said Vega. “As a scientist, I feel like if there’s any new skill I would like to have, I’ll just have to practice and I’ll get better. Learning is infinite and it’s exciting to know that.”  

Tramonte defends master’s thesis  

Carlos Tramonte Thesis Defense Photo 1

On June 13, 2023, Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant Carlos Tramonte defended his Master of Science in Biology thesis at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.  

Tramonte’s thesis was titled, “Coral Species Replacements on Guam’s Reef Flats: Investigating the Role of Symbiodiniaceae Dynamics and Environmental Stressors.” 

His chairperson was Dr. Bastian Bentlage. Along with Bentlage, Tramonte’s committee consisted of UOG Marine Laboratory Director Dr. Laurie Raymundo, and Dr. Sarah Davies from Boston University.   

Following the completion of his graduate program, Tramonte will pursue doctoral work at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with the support of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program from the National Science Foundation.   

Tramonte will be working on mesophotic reef systems in American Samoa and will be looking into coral physiology and environmental DNA (eDNA). 

UOG alum takes part in prestigious marine biology program 

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University of Guam alum Gabriella Prelosky is one of 15 students selected nationwide to participate in the highly competitive Woods Hole Diversity Partnership Education Program (PEP) in Massachusetts from June 3 to August 12, 2023.  

PEP is a 10-week multi-institutional program between the six Woods Hole scientific institutions and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore that focuses on giving underrepresented groups in marine and ocean sciences practical experience and real-world training in marine and environmental science.   

During her time in the program, Prelosky will participate in a variety of activities such as attending a four-week course titled “Oceans and Environmental Sciences: Global Climate Change,” experience life on a research cruise aboard the Research Vessel Tioga, attend lectures, go whale watching, as well as go on field trips with her cohort.  

Over the course of the ten-week internship, Prelosky will study the development of electroreceptors in shark embryos under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Gillis and Dr. Michael Palmer.  

“I feel so incredibly honored to have been accepted into this program as the first University of Guam student to attend,” said Prelosky. “I was so lucky to have been one of the 15 students picked for this incredible and competitive program.”  

Prelosky recently graduated from the University of Guam with a B.S. in Biology in May 2023. Throughout her undergraduate experience, she accomplished a number of achievements such as participating in the first-ever National Science Foundation Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES): Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists (SEAS) Bridge to Ph.D. program held at the Pennsylvania State University in June 2023 and naming two potentially new species of diatoms as a 2021 NSF INCLUDES: SEAS Islands Alliance undergraduate student research fellow. 

“My time in the INCLUDES program helped me to not only be more confident in who I am but allowed me to gain skills that I believe “amped” up my application skills, writing skill and general lab skills,” said Prelosky. “INCLUDES helped me gain a sense of feeling in the scientific community, and has allowed me to become proud of the scientist I know I am.” 

Woods Hole Prelosky Photo 2
Over the course of the ten-week internship, Prelosky will study the development of electroreceptors in shark embryos under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Gillis and Dr. Michael Palmer. Prelosky is holding a chain catshark in this photo, a species she will work with for her research project.

UOG student sets sail on deep-sea research voyage  

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University of Guam undergraduate communication major Gabriella Piper was part of the first cohort of students and educators from the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) program aboard the Exploration Vessel (EV) Nautilus, which set sail for Sidney, British Colombia from Honolulu, Hawa’i on June 15, 2023. 

STEMSEAS is a National Science Foundation-supported program that provides ship-based exploratory experiences for undergraduates from diverse backgrounds aboard research vessels to engage in geoscience and oceanography activities.  

The EV Nautilus is owned by Ocean Exploration Trust, which is under the direction of Robbert Ballard, the researcher known for finding the wreck of the Titanic.   

The 10-day seafloor mapping expedition was sponsored by Ocean Networks Canada.  

Piper joined a cohort of 12 students and instructors and expressed her excitement about this opportunity to learn more about science communication.  

“I still cannot believe it,” said Piper. “It is a little surreal to be honest. When I first applied, I did not expect to get in because of how many people apply to this program every year, so getting the letter of acceptance felt like such a huge accomplishment.”  

Piper found out about the STEMSEAS program during her time as a 2022 Guam NSF EPSCoR undergraduate student researcher when she attended the 2022 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Conference in Puerto Rico last October. On the way to the event, she was able to connect with a STEMSEAS alum and then later discussed the program with outreach representatives at the conference.  

“My experience with the Student Research Experience Program was incredible and during it I got to network with so many wonderful and unique individuals who helped me discover my passion for science communication,” said Piper. “It is because of the program and the individuals within it that I was able to find this opportunity and learn about the different ways in which I can make a meaningful contribution to the STEM community.”  

Guam NSF EPSCoR assists with post-typhoon food distribution

Mawar Food Distribution
Mawar Food Distribution
Guam NSF EPSCoR joined the Guam Green Growth Initiative and the University of Guam Sea Grant in packing and distributing food to the island community on May 31, 2023 in response to the destructive impact of Typhoon Mawar. Pictured here is Emily Wendte, Guam NSF EPSCoR Education and Workforce Development Program Associate, assisting with the food distribution.

Guam NSF EPSCoR joined the Guam Green Growth Initiative and the University of Guam Sea Grant in packing and distributing food to the island community on May 31, 2023 in response to the destructive impact of Typhoon Mawar.  

The powerful typhoon hit the island on May 24, 2023.  
The organizations gathered at the Guam Department of Education’s Commodity Distribution Warehouse in Piti to provide assistance to the Emergency Food Assistant Program along with the Office of the governor, government officials, and volunteers.  

The program achieved its target of packing 7,500 bags of food commodities which included items such as canned beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fruit.  

Guam NSF EPSCoR showcases research at sustainability conference  


Graduate students, postdocs, as well as other researchers were able to speak about their work to attendees of the University of Guam Conference on Island Sustainability Conference on April 14, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Guam.  

The presentations were a part of the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans, a breakout session presented by Guam NSF EPSCoR. The event was moderated by Sarah Lemer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marine invertebrate genomics at the University of Guam.  

Presenters included Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistants Colin Anthony, Therese Miller, Renee Crisostomo, and Joseph Proietti. They covered a range of topics such as using publicly available data to study global jellyfish distribution as well as evolutionary trends, the microbiome of the staghorn coral Acropora pulchra from West Hagåtña Bay, Phenotypic plasticity in Acropora aspera and its implications for coral restoration, and quantifying genotypic diversity in the coral Porites rus.  

Marilyn Brandt, Ph.D., a research associate from the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies at the University of the Virgin Islands talked about Rescue to Reef, a program that links science-based coral restoration to privately-owned resorts within the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Other presenters at the breakout session included postdocs Hector Torrado and Gaurav Shimpi, who discussed their research regarding the relatedness and clonality of Acropora corals on Guam as well as mitochondria and soft corals. 

Lastly, David Burdick, who manages Guam’s long-term reef monitoring program, talked about how the island’s coral reefs have changed over the last decade and how different parts of the reefs respond differently to stressors.  

UOG student headed to the Arctic for climate change research

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From the University of Guam

This summer will be colder than usual for University of Guam student Loreto Paulino Jr., but it will also be unforgettable. The UOG chemistry major will be looking for information on climate change while camping in an Arctic region of Alaska with no phone, no internet, and access only by small plane.

Paulino is one of 11 students selected nationwide — and the first from UOG — to be on this year’s Polaris Project research team under the Woodwell Climate Research Center. The project describes its work, funded by the National Science Foundation since 2008, as investigating the fate of the vast quantities of ancient carbon locked in Arctic permafrost as it melts. It seeks to inform decision-makers and the public about climate change and to train future Arctic researchers.

Paulino found out about the Polaris Project at the 2022 SACNAS Diversity in STEM Conference in Puerto Rico. He visited the booth for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution — one of his top picks for grad school — and met Dr. Nigel Golden, a post-doctoral researcher studying the response of Arctic species to climate change, who encouraged Paulino to apply for the Polaris Project.

A program focused on diversity

Paulino said he was drawn to the opportunity because of the project’s focus on addressing climate change and its focus on building diversity in STEM and among future leaders in Arctic research. When reviewing the application, Paulino said one question stood out to him: How do justice, equity, and inclusion relate to addressing climate change?

“I immediately thought of Guam and how unfair it is that the people living in this region, who will be hit the hardest by the effects of climate change, are not included in climate votes in the United States,” he said. “This exclusion highlights the urgent need to empower and include the most vulnerable communities in our efforts to tackle climate change.”

‘Being part of a bigger picture’

Paulino will head to Massachusetts in April for field safety training. He will then spend two weeks in July with the Polaris Project faculty and research staff doing intensive fieldwork in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska. Each of the students will conduct their own research project there and then spend another two weeks back at Woodwell Climate Research Center analyzing their data.

“Alaska is a place I never imagined I would go, but I am excited to explore its beautiful wildlife and scenery,” he said.

Paulino is pursuing a degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics with the ultimate goal of obtaining a doctorate in chemical oceanography, a field that studies the composition of seawater and how it interacts chemically with the atmosphere and marine organisms. It’s a field he hopes more students from Guam will get into as well.

Prepping for a Ph.D.

Set to graduate this May, Paulino has made a point to build a diverse portfolio of research experience as an undergraduate in preparation for post-baccalaureate opportunities and eventually a Ph.D. program.

Paulino said his participation with the Guam EPSCOR Student Research Experience at UOG, in particular, helped advance his skills in advanced mathematical skills and coding and also built his confidence.

“This was one of my favorite experiences as it helped me realize that I have what it takes to succeed in the challenging field of research,” Paulino said.

He also participated in an undergraduate research experience at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, where he investigated the presence of fluorinated contaminants in the air using different sampling tools.

“This was by all standards a very challenging project, but Loreto did very well in mastering the tasks […],” said University of Rhode Island Professor of Oceanography Rainer Lohnmann, Paulino’s mentor during the REU. “Loreto is a very smart student. […] I was impressed by his determination.”

Though the STEM fields can be challenging, Paulino said he hopes his achievements will encourage other students from Guam that they have what it takes to be in STEM.

“I want them to be inspired by the work I do, by just knowing someone is taking part in projects like the Polaris Project — someone that was in their shoes and that came from public high school,” he said. “[…] It’s about how badly you want it.”

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